Though John Walker’s essay is about computer games, its arguments apply to ‘intellectual property’ in any field.
Everyone has experienced the dribble-chinned tedium of various copyright industries screeching, “BUT YOU WOULDN’T STEAL A CAR!”* at us, as we sit in the cinema to watch a film while being told about how it’s our fault that no one’s sitting in a cinema watching a film, or indeed as we sit back to enjoy our legally purchased DVD. The comparison is false. And it’s a false comparison that it’s very much in the interests of the copyright industries to have us conflate. No, I would no more steal a car than I would tolerate a company telling me that they had the exclusive rights to the idea of cars themselves. However, there are things I’m very happy to ‘steal’, like knowledge, inspiration, or good ideas. And it was until incredibly recently that amongst such things as knowledge, inspiration and good ideas were the likes of literature and music.